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From left: Gala Co-Chair Allison Druyanoff, Gala Chair Barbara Herman, Rita Wilson, Women’s Guild President Gina Furth, Jay Leno, Gala Chair Cookie Markowitz, Billy Crystal and Janice Crystal

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Women’s Guild Comes Together for Jokes and Joy at Fall Gala

Laughter proved to be strong medicine when Women’s Guild held its annual gala on Nov. 9 at The Beverly Hilton hotel.

A day after the contentious 2016 presidential election, Women’s Guild members and attendees promoted the spirit of unity with a warm-hearted Supper Club-themed event, spearheaded by Gala Chairs Barbara Herman and Cookie Markowitz, and Co-chair Allison Druyanoff. The gala honored legendary comedian and award-winning actor Billy Crystal with the group’s prestigious Hollywood Icon Award.

The event raised nearly $1.25 million for the Women’s Guild Simulation Center for Advanced Clinical Skills at Cedars-Sinai.

“Tonight, we have a lot to celebrate,” Women’s Guild President Gina Furth said before a crowd of 650 attendees.” We have all survived some of the more divisive times that I can remember, but I’m always encouraged by my fellow Women’s Guild members, some of them on the right and some on the left. But we’re forever joined in our total support to the Women’s Guild Simulation Center for Advanced Clinical Skills and to Cedars-Sinai. This commitment made by Women’s Guild is dedicated to the innovation of the service of human life and advancing the future of medicine. That is more important than politics.”

Furth added that the organization is now very close to fulfilling its $10 million pledge to the simulation center. And she said the work being done in the facility is being recognized by the wider medical community.

Bernard and Judy Briskin

Bernard and Judy Briskin

“Last week, I was overcome with pride when I accepted, on behalf of Women’s Guild, the Innovation Award for Technology from the Los Angeles County Medical Association. It was incredible,” she said. “We received that award for our work in facilitating the birth of the simulation center.”

Saturday Night Live alumnus and star of the CBS sitcom Man with a Plan Kevin Nealon set the congenial tone for the evening. “I’ve very excited to be here tonight. I’m your host-elect for the evening,” he joked. “Tonight is a celebration of all the Guild has accomplished and all its about to accomplish with all of your help. And unlike last night, it certainly will be over earlier. The exit polls will also be so much better, because we’re going to set aside all of our petty differences and whimsical concerns so we can focus on the important stuff.”

Nealon then shared a hilarious story about the delivery of his son at Cedars-Sinai and how he was coaxed into assisting with the procedure. “The doctor tapped me on the shoulder and wanted to know if I wanted to cut the umbilical cord. I was thinking to myself, gee, doesn’t anyone work around here? Why do I have to do everything? What do you want me to do next, cut the grass?”

Viveca Paulin-Ferrell served as live auctioneer for the event, which included a set of two 18 karat white and yellow gold bangle bracelets with nearly 500 diamonds, courtesy of XIV Karats Ltd.; an Italian river cruise from Uniworld Boutique River Cruises; a two-night stay at the Pierre Hotel in New York; two Ultimate Ski Packages for Two at Jackson Hole, including skiing lessons with Olympic gold medalist Tommy Moe; and a six-night vacation at the Irish Dream at Ashford Castle and K Club Golf Resort.

Actress, producer and singer Rita Wilson provided the evening’s musical entertainment, performing a number of her original songs.

Jay Leno then introduced Crystal with a lively set of jokes and heartfelt admiration for his longtime friend. “Billy is responsible for getting so many young comedians into the business. I know. I was a young man. I had no direction in my life. I didn’t know where I was going. I had no idea what I was going to do. I walked into a comedy club and saw Billy on stage and said, ‘Well, I can do that.’”

Pat Hubbard and Barbara Herman

Pat Hubbard and Barbara Herman

In a tribute video, James Corden, Josh Gad, Whoopi Goldberg, Jimmy Kimmel, Norman Lear, Rob Reiner, Martin Short and Joe Torre, among others, lauded Crystal’s talent and philanthropy.

In accepting the Hollywood Icon Award, Crystal riffed on a wide range of themes from the election to the evening’s menu to doctor’s visits in sidesplitting fashion. “I’m usually very reluctant to receive awards but this is very different,” he said. “I wanted to do this because Cedars-Sinai is such an important part of all of our lives. As some of you may know, I got my start in a hospital.”

He added, “The work that the Guild has done to make Cedars-Sinai one of the greatest hospitals in the world is so inspiring. … Your work has created one of the medical marvels of our country. Thanks to your generosity, the medical staff at Cedar-Sinai has a place to renew, to develop and hone their skills in the simulation center. To think I’ve had a hand in helping, however small, is humbling.”